According to StatTracker, U.S. mobile internet usage has increased by 73% in the last year. As this trend continues, it’s clear that the mobile web is becoming a more and more important avenue for marketers of all kinds.
In the multi-screen world we now live in, it’s critical for businesses to have a beautiful site that doesn’t just scale down to low resolutions, but also looks great on all devices — from a 27” desktop display to a “smart” refrigerator, and every tablet, phablet, and phone in between. While there are a number of acceptable strategies for mobile-friendly web design, I believe that for the majority of local businesses responsive design is the best mobile strategy.
Before we dive into the benefits, lets define responsive web design (RWD). Recently, the term “responsive” has become almost a catch-all term when describing mobile-friendly websites, but there are some distinct differences between a truly responsive website versus, for example, a dynamically served site or mobile specific site that can appear to be “responsive” by the untrained eye.
RWD at its heart is a site that’s built on one domain, that uses one single HTML codebase which is fluidly resized by the CSS to optimally adjust to the screen size of the device that viewing the site. Compared to a dynamically served site (which can refer to both adaptive web design or RESS-responsive design with server side components), the key difference is the amount of HTML whereas those sites have multiple HTML code bases that a server chooses between to present depending on the size of the device that is detected.
Now that we’ve gotten the nerdy definition out of the way, why responsive? First and foremost, SEO; responsive web design is recommended by Google. While it is true that Google has stated that dynamic serving and mobile-specific sites are acceptable when done correctly, it is easy to understand why responsive is their first choice — its web-crawling bots can be more efficient when indexing only one set of HTML code rather than indexing multiple versions of the same site.
Outside of Google’s preferences, RWD offers a number of additional benefits that increase the user experience and aid the business:
— Flexible rendering: responsive design allows for fluid and optimal viewing experience across all device and browser sizes and orientations. No pinching, zooming, and panning required.
— Easy maintenance: One codeset of HTML means cost and time efficiencies when maintaining and making changes to the site.
— Consistent and streamline user experience: Users can access your site across devices and expect a similar feel, navigation, and experience regardless.
— Easy sharing and linking: One URL makes it easy to link to and share your site and ensures a device optimized experience when those links are then opened.
There are pros and cons to each mobile strategy and every company should consider their unique business challenges (including budget and IT resources among other things), while keeping in mind the best user experience specific to their customers.
As our devices and technology continue to evolve (and we see the increasing influence of wearables, the “Internet of things” and more) I am sure that web design will continue to adapt — along with Google’s ever changing preferences. And while RWD isn’t a silver bullet for mobile strategy, it is certainly a great option for both consumers and businesses.
Matt Matergia leads North American business development efforts for mono solutions, a SaaS-based platform built for resellers to design, deliver and manage professional, responsive websites and e-commerce sites for small and medium sized businesses. Matt can be reached on Twitter and Instagram: @mterg.